Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Chile's Ministry of Interior and Public Safety said Monday three people have died in fires that have consumed nearly 500 square miles of forest.affected
The agency, known as ONEMI, said there are 43 active fires, while 39 have been brought under control in the South American country's Valparaíso, Maule, Bío Bío, La Araucanía, Los Lagos, O'Higgins, Metropolitana de Santiago and Los Ríos administrative divisions.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency in the affected regions.
"We face the greatest forest disaster in our history, with an affected area 20 times greater than in 2016, but we will overcome the emergency," Bachelet said in a statement. "I am grateful for all the brigades, firefighters, military, private workers and volunteers who fight the fires in the first line."
About 4,000 people, including Chilean troops, firefighters and volunteers, are working to douse the flames. Officials have deployed about 40 airplanes and helicopters.
In addition to the deaths, ONEMI said 142 people have been injured and 158 people have been displaced, while 81 homes have been destroyed.